A man with crutches standing outside.
A man with crutches standing outside.

Photo © Graeme Robertson

Ndong

‘It’s time for us to influence decisions’

Ndong, leader of a grassroots disability group in Cameroon

“When you start going to vote, then you start hearing comments from people who are standing in the lines. They make comments like, ‘Do you think God was a fool to have made you disabled? Why would someone with a disability come out to vote?’ So all of those kind of comments can be very discouraging.

“People generally think that the place of people with disabilities is by the roadside, begging for hand-outs. Anytime you do anything that shows efforts leading towards success, it’s represented as being related to witchcraft.

“I’ve met priests who have also told me that I am like this because it’s a punishment from God. And I tell them that I don’t believe in a God who makes people to be like this as a result of punishment. I think God loves me too.

“As people with disabilities, we are tired of living on handouts, on begging all the time. We are tired of it and we think it’s time for us to influence decisions in our own interests. The common understanding has been charity where people think you just provide some rice and some day-to-day stuff like that, but now we understand that we need to move to a higher level.

“When we’re able to drive for our civic responsibilities, for example through voting, then we determine who sits in the decision-making position … [that] will in turn help to improve our lives. That’s the message that we would like to spread to the wider community for people with disabilities.”

Since 2011, with funding support from Irish Aid, Sightsavers has been working with a number of organisations, including Cameroon’s official election body, to raise awareness of the political rights of people with disabilities and support them in engaging with the democratic process in their country.

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